The San Francisco Sessions - Day 1 February 14th 2015


My adventure is beginning. Bag checked in, guitar in the hold. The Cabin Manager has welcomed me and the other 358 passengers on this Virgin Atlantic flight to San Francisco. The evidence is piling up, daring me to allow myself the thrill of believing this fantasy is going to happen. To me. What obstacles have come and gone? Every one of them ready to draw me flatly, sensibly out of the dream. Contact made, lost, restored, date set, plans made, paid for. Imagination. Running. Wild. Work behind me, packed my stuff and said goodbye to my wife and daughter – oh, my! One of those desperate but life-affirming moments that we can hardly bear but that we probably need so that we really appreciate where our joy comes from and what makes it good to be us. All these things behind me as we sit on the tarmac, waiting for our slot on the runway, I start to think about the problems that remain (I’m like that. That’s why it’s so astonishing that this exciting, reckless adventure is happening to me. And probably why it remained unthinkable until I was almost 43). Anyway, back to my problems. The first thing that entered my head. Chuck doesn’t like a line in one of my songs. Yes, I know, it’s not all bad. He’s read my song He’s paid attention He cares enough to want to make it better and He has shared his thoughts with me. One of erm Americana’s (?) finest and most experienced songwriters wants to help. This isn’t lost on me. But still. That song is 8 years old. Almost exactly the same age as my daughter. And the line that encapsulates the song is the one he wants to get rid of. I want his advice, I cherish his opinion. I crave the chance to work with him on new songs and would rather lose a finger than jeopardise that. But I don’t agree with him. I’m not precious about any part of any song I’ve written. At least, I don’t want to be. I know the benefit of revising, reviewing, cutting, correcting chopping, editing and enhancing. But I like that line. And, for days now, I’ve refused to contemplate any alternative. Knowing that any alternative would be more cumbersome or else change the song altogether. It is taking a while to get on the runway, though. I’m softened by the tearful farewell perhaps – two hours old but not diminished. My jaw not set as firm. Maybe the warm fug of Californians around me is starting to thaw the spiky Yorkshire soul. Just out of interest, then, how else could the line go? Within moments – really, barely time to count the extra inches of legroom I’d bought – a new line had formed. I played it over a couple of times in my mind. And I liked it. It changed the meaning of the song a bit. From a general, universal statement to a personal account. But I think it works. And it cheered me right up. I felt, suddenly, less like a deluded office worker, spunking his family’s money and leaving them behind for an outrageous folly on the other side of the world. And a little bit more like a songwriter, working with another – a very fine – songwriter. Making a good song better. Well, different – I am still from Yorkshire! I don’t think this is going to be the high point of the adventure. But I’m already feeling very fortunate. And I’m lapping up every moment. We might not use that line. We might come up with something else entirely. Who knows? That’s how these adventures go, I reckon.

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